Texas MLS Teams Ready To Hit The Ground Running

Written By Rashid Mohamed on February 21, 2023 - Last Updated on February 24, 2023
Texas teams revamp for exciting MLS season

Major League Soccer’s 2023 regular season is set to kick off on Feb. 25, with three Texas teams – FC Dallas, Austin FC and Houston Dynamic FC – gunning for the Anschutz Trophy. All three teams have made significant personnel changes in the offseason to go after a title this year.

These are exciting times for Texas MLS fans. TV networks ABC and ESPN recently reported that the viewership in 2022 was the highest recorded since 2007. 

MLS fans in Texas can’t legally bet on their favorite teams

Unfortunately, Texas MLS fans can’t bet on their favorite teams legally in The Lone Star State. Legislation is pending at the Capitol to legalize Texas sports betting, but it faces an uphill climb.

Let’s take a look at each team’s prospects for the upcoming season, changes to the roster and some key early matchups.

Houston Dynamo

Established in 2006, Houston Dynamo’s claim to success consists of winning the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cups in their first two seasons. They also won the US Open Cup in 2018

In 2008, the Dynamo became the first American club to secure a point on Mexican soil in the CONCACAF Champions League era between 2008 and 2017.

But being a Houston Dynamo fan isn’t easy on the nerves. The team last made the playoffs in 2017 – a fate they only share with the Chicago Fire. Anyone who’s been following the Dynamo lately knows the team needs a deep rebuild and to rehaul its core. 

Thankfully, the club’s new ownership isn’t shy about spending money to do so. To give themselves a fighting chance this season, the Dynamo let go of a lot of players in the offseason and have signed a number of players. 

New players for 2023 and cuts

The Dynamo enter the 2023 season with the following key acquisitions:

  • Amine Bassi – from AS Nancy Lorraine (French League II)
  • José Artur de Lima Junior – from Columbus Crew
  • Brad Smith – from DC United
  • Franco Escobar – from LAFC
  • Andrew Tarbell – from Austin FC
  • Ifunanyachi Achara – from Toronto FC
  • Frantz Pierrot – drafted from University of Connecticut
  • Ivan Franco – from Club Libertad Paraguay

The Houston Dynamo also sheds several of its core players:

  • Tim Parker 
  • Adam Lundqvist 
  • Fafa Picault  
  • Memo Rodriguez  
  • Zeca  
  • Joe Corona  
  • Zarek Valentin- 
  • Marcelo Palomino  
  • Darwin Quintero  
  • Darwin Seren  
  • Matías Vera  
  • Mateo Bahemech 
  • Sam Junqua 
  • Ian Hoffmann 
  • Thiago Fernandes  

Strengths and weaknesses

All in all, the Dynamo’s strength lies in its offense. Its attacking core is starting to shape up nicely, and all eyes are on Ivan Franco to open up opportunities on the flank. Great expectations are also placed on Sebastian Ferreira, as he returns this season. 

Defense is a key area the team needs to work on in order to avoid early deficits. 

Houston has made a point of revamping the club. The idea is to get faster, younger and better. They have a solid core to build from with midfielders Coco Carraquilla and Hector Herrera, as well as the young center-back Teenage Hadebe

Early matchups

Exciting matchups to take note of will be Houston vs. Austin on Sunday, March 5, and Houston vs. Dallas on Sunday, May 21.  

Shell Energy Stadium, the club’s home turf, is currently undergoing an expensive facelift in time for the season opening. Included in the stadium’s upgrade is new seating, expanding premium areas and vehicle charging stations.

FC Dallas

The history of FC Dallas is tied to one man, Lamar Hunt, a visionary who was inspired to bring professional soccer to the US after attending the 1966 World Cup in England. The club eventually started competing as a member of the Western Conference in Major League Soccer in 1996 as the Dallas Burn before adopting its current name in 2004. 

FC Dallas has won the US Open Cup twice, in 1997 and 2016. 

Their performance last season was lauded by fans and critics, reminiscent of the Dallas team we saw seven or eight years ago. For the upcoming season, it looks as though the club is keeping most of its roster.

New players for 2023 and cuts

The following players will be new additions:

  • Geovane Jesus – from Cruzeiro (Brazil Division II)
  • Sebastien Ibegha – from LAFC
  • Kameron Lacey – from Charlotte FC
  • Herbert Endeley – from Minneapolis City SC
  • Amet Korca – from HNC Gorica (Croatia)
  • José Mulato – from Deportivo Cali 

These players are no longer on the team:

  • Franco Jara
  • Matt Hedges
  • Eddie Munjoma
  • Kalil ElMedkhar
  • Beni Redzic
  • Thomas Roberts
  • Nicky Hernandez
  • Lucas Bartlett
  • Nanu
  • Nelson Quinones 

Strengths and weaknesses

FC Dallas relies heavily on its attack and midfield. That’s where their strength lies, especially with the front three players: Jesus Ferreira, Alan Velasco and Paul Ariola. They produced some incredible results last season. Much of the same is expected this year. 

This season, the team’s Achilles heel is their defense. The loss of Matt Hedges is bound to be felt. As a result, a slight regression in the team’s defensive capabilities might be inevitable. Last year, Dallas FC had one of the best defenses in the league thanks to Hedges commanding the back line. 

Early matchups

This year’s opener against Minnesota United on Feb. 25 is one to circle on the calendar. So too will be the matchup with Los Angeles FC on March 25. 

Austin FC

As the youngest of the three Texas MLS teams, Austin FC was founded in 2019 and began playing two years later. They haven’t even had enough time to carve out any real rivals on the pitch. Possible contenders are the Houston Dynamo and Columbus Crew. 

Last August, the club surprised everyone by beating FC Dallas to make it to the Western Conference Final. That was a big deal for fans despite the club having performed well throughout the season. 

New players for 2023 and cuts

Bringing more pep to the team is this year’s new arrivals:

  • Leo Väisänen – from Elfsborg (Sweden)
  • Adam Lundquist – from Houston Dynamo
  • Gyasi Zardes – from Colorado Rapids
  • Alfonso Ocamp-Chavez – from Seattle FC
  • Amro Tarek – from El Masri (Egypt)
  • Matt Bersano – from San Jose FC
  • Sofiane Djeffal – from DC United

Leaving the team for greener pastures are:

  • Jared Stroud
  • Felipe Martins
  • Andrew Tarbell
  • Thomas Pochettino
  • Ruben Gabrielsen
  • Danny Hoesen
  • Washington Corozo

Strengths and weaknesses

With one of the most formidable attacking formations in the game, Austin’s strength lies in its offense. Sebastien Druissi, a player who not only scores goals but can also be an awesome playmaker, is easily one of the top three No. 10s in the league. 

Austin FC’s defense isn’t too shabby either. They’ve bolstered it by getting Väisänen to replace Gabrielsen

The club has done well in its nascence. The question is can it keep up the good work heading into 2023? Coach Josh Wolff believes the trick is in focusing on the team’s depth. Austin FC will partake in four competitions this year: MLS, Concacaf Champions League, Leagues Cup and US Open Cup. So, there’s ample opportunity to raise a trophy for the second time in the teams’ history.

Early matchups

Q2 stadium, the club’s home, is the newest and most innovative sporting facility in the country. Plans to expand the stadium with 22,000 additional seats are underway. 

Key contests in the early stages to look forward to will be Austin FC vs. St. Louis City SC on Saturday, Feb. 25, as will be Austin FC vs. Toronto FC on Saturday, May 20. 

Tailgating and Texas go together like steak and potatoes; no stadium visit is complete without it. The parking lots around Toyota Stadium, where FC Dallas plays, offers plenty of space for tailgating … and a good portion of them are free

Sadly, there’s no tailgating at the Q2 stadium, but the Shell Energy Stadium parking lots down in Houston allow it before certain events and in particular sections. 

Photo by Justin Rex/Associated Press
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Rashid Mohamed

Rashid Mohamed is an international journalist with a special interest in sports writing. He contributes regularly to PlayTexas, focusing on both the pathway to gaming legalization and the underground market in the state. He is a Poli-Sci graduate of Ohio University and holds an A.A.S in Journalism. He has worked in a number of countries and has extensive experience in the United Nations as well as other regional, national, and international organizations. Rashid lives and writes out of Denver, Colorado.

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